This was my first time flying with Vietnam Airlines and found them to be quite good. We travelled on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner both ways which had good leg room, good size seat back screen and the food was lovely. The movie range was limited.
We were met at Ho Chi Minh airport and transferred to our hotel by our guide from Insider Journeys which was all done very efficiently. We stayed at the Grand Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City- a 4.5 star hotel, in a great location in District 1. We had Premium Deluxe Rooms which were a good size, clean and comfortable. The buffet breakfast had a fantastic varietyand there is a great gym, pool and rooftop bar.
Our first day was a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is about 1.5 hours drive from Ho Chi Minh City. On arrival you watch a short video on the history of the Vietnam War then we were guided through the area to give us a more detailed history. We were then given the opportunity to go into the tunnels which start out at standing size and get smaller and darker very quickly. We only lasted till the 1st exit!
After this we head back to Ho Chi Minh City to a Pho shop – this is a famous soup in Vietnam and it was delicious. The broth is simmered for 12 hours then meat, herbs and vegetables are added to it.
The afternoon was a visit to the War Remnants Museum which is well worth doing. It is an amazing exhibition, but also quite confronting. We finished the day with a walking tour of the city seeing the Post Office, US Embassy and local market areas.
That evening we enjoyed a drink at the rooftop bar at the Caravelle Hotel before we took ourselves off to the night markets and ate in a local food court followed by a little shopping. Ho Chi Minh City is much more developed than I anticipated and a very clean city.
The it was off to the Mekong Delta for our overnight cruise on board the ‘Mekong Eyes Classic’ which was excellent! This cruiser was built out of an old, traditional rice barge with the finest quality wood, by skilled craftsmen of the Mekong Delta. There are 14 twin/double air conditioned rooms, each with a private bathroom with shower and hot water. It is very clean, and comfortable, the bathrooms were quite large, and all rooms offer a fantastic panoramic view over the Mekong River. There is a large dining room in the lower deck with a cosy bar. The upper-deck has an inside panorama lounge and on the top deck there is a lovely area to have a drink, read and take in the breathtaking views. The food onboard is FANTASTIC! From the boat we did a 1 hour walking tour of a local village and had afternoon tea in their home, this was a lovely experience.
We disembarked the Mekong Eyes the next morning and head off on a smaller boat to the Floating Markets – these were quite large and a sight to see. After this we stopped at a Rice Noodle Making Factory and saw how they make the various types of noodles! There is still quite a lot of manual labour involved. We then walked through some local fruits, vegetable and meat markets. The food all looked so fresh!!
We then head back to Ho Chi Minh – which was about a 4-hour journey. Our guide took us to a local Vietnamese Restaurant called Hoa Tuc. This was beautiful and upmarket restaurant and is usually included on Insider Journey’s Tours.
Our last day was a free day and our flight wasn’t until later in the evening so a few of us booked a Vespa Tour of the City with Vespa Adventures. Insider Journeys arranged this for us. It was around $100 AUD and it went for 3 hours. We went to a local bird garden, Buddha monument, Buddhist Temple, Fabric Market and a Herbalist to try their tea. It was excellent and such a great way to see the sights and get around the city. We had lunch at the SH Garden Café across from the hotel. Again, beautiful local Vietnamese cuisine. We then did some shopping at the Plaza across the road from The Grand Hotel and massages in the afternoon.
We finished with a last drink at the Rooftop Bar of our hotel – The Grand Hotel before our 6pm transfer pick up. Once again Insider Journeys picked us up on time and took us to the airport. Insider Journeys and The Mekong Eyes cruise were excellent. I would definitely recommend them for touring Vietnam.
The value for money in Vietnam is fantastic. It is so cheap. We were eating like Queens on a very small budget. Eg: Lunch at the Pho shop was a really big bowl of Pho Soup for around $5 AUD.
TIPS:: Season – we were there at the end of the wet season and our days ranged from 30-32 degrees with very high humidity. I’d suggest travel in March/April as this would be a more comfortable time of year.
Get your visa before you leave Australia. To get your visa on arrival added a 1 hour wait to our group as one person didn’t have their visa.